I was away for the weekend visiting family in Glasgow, I flew from London Stansted airport; having two flights and the inevitable waiting time at either end I decided to make a start on Monty’s book. I’m reading it on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, a wonderful invention that allows me to take lots of digital books on my travels but has the obvious disadvantage that it isn’t a physical book, so you don’t get the feel and smell of a book and I do miss these, but the advantages are greater than the drawbacks for me.
This is not a gardening book, it’s a book about some of the French gardens that Monty has visited since he was a teenager and he discusses those famous and those not so well known with the same enthusiasm and rigour. There’s a mighty range here over a long time-scale. Most of the big names are covered: Giverny, Versailles, Villandry, The Tuileries Gardens as are many much less well known and some that are traditionally not thought of as gardens, not all are liked so this isn’t Monty’s favourite French gardens, this is a personal view not a coffee table book on tourist gardens, not a travel book in that sense, it’s too edgy to fall into any of those categories.
There are chunks of autobiography and personal philosophy scattered through it making it an intimate read, the story of any one garden and his reactions to it being enhanced by his description of when and why he visited it, he has had a lot of different reasons for visiting gardens, not all of them a straightforward wish to see a particular place. Monty writes with passion and enthusiasm, his language can be earthy, but you are with him in these gardens and his discussions of the differences between French and British gardeners are thought provoking. He describes the gardens, and people he meets in them, forcefully. This is a book for gardeners, travelers, biography readers, Francophiles and Anglophiles alike and well worth reading.